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Incorporating Cultural Factors in Determining Emotional Disturbance

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  1. Incorporating Cultural Factors in Determining Emotional Disturbance Presented by: Ray Easler, Ph.D. Franklin-McKinley School District Alliant University Kimberlie Cain, M.A., Ed. S. San Diego Unified School District Julie Miller, Graduate Student Alliant University

  2. AGENDA • What are the 3 specifiers of the 5 potential characteristics of the emotional disturbance definition? • How are they defined? • What are the 5 potential characteristics of the emotional disturbance definition? • How are they defined? • How do the cultural implications mesh with the Emotionally Disturbed for African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students?

  3. What is the State’s definition or criteria for disproportionate representation?Agenda (continued) • Non-Biased assessment - Does it pertain solely to the instruments used or can it include the assessor as well? • Questions put forth to representatives from States in 2008 looking at “Disproportionate Representation” fromOSEP • What is the process used to determine if it is the result of inappropriate classification? • Why are the majority of the States reporting 0% of LEA’s with Disproportionate Representation being the result of inappropriate determination? (

  4. Late 70s and early 80s literature • Suggested biased placement likely to have it’s roots in the referral process • Assessment data may be collected to reinforce a “covert decision” that had already been made • The result of predetermined “perceptions”, “cognitions”, and “belief systems” likely to result in a disproportionality of students of color in E.D. classes

  5. Implications to Assessment • School psychologists need to be sensitive to culture during the assessment • Need to be careful that the “problematic” behaviors are not the result of racial, ethnic, linguistic, and/or other factors, but rather are “normal characteristics for their culture” • Misconceptions come from: • not being aware of the cultural considerations of these students • Not thinking like the students • not being aware of, or understanding their culture

  6. E.D. eligibility often determined by… • Training (or lack of) • Personal experiences and views • Definition of professional association • State and District policies

  7. Who Makes the Difficult Decision? • Ambiguous decisions of differentiating between “learned” behaviors and behaviors that are a “disability” are often made by an I.E.P. team as a result of: • team members who focus on the teacher’s complaint • Not focused on student’s characteristics • Not focused on the appropriateness of identification and placement. (Coroner’s attitude.)

  8. What to look at… • look at the student as an individual through global aspects of • Cognitive • Social • Affective processes • Possible effects of these variables on teachers, students, and administrators (Frisby 1992)

  9. What to look at… • “The most important factor that needs to be addressed is assessor bias and misuse of assessment information. After all, the person conducting the evaluation is a product of family experiences, beliefs, social-group membership as well as formal training.” -Gray-Little (1995)

  10. Research Data • Two studies show teachers’ perceptions of students’ behavior and teacher biases influence patterns and have been linked empirically to special education referrals and referral patterns. - Cartledge & Kourea (2008); (Hosp & Reschly (2003).

  11. Questions to Ask/Observations to Make: • What behaviors appear to bother the teacher? • Which students are exhibiting the behaviors? • Are all students exhibiting the behaviors treated the same? • Who are the students the teacher appears to have the most difficulty managing? • What are their cultural, economic, or linguistic backgrounds? • How do students from different backgrounds appear to affect the teacher?

  12. Questions to Ask/Observations to Make: • To what extent has the teacher “reached out” (or appeared to) and demonstrated concern to students of color? • To what extent has the teacher demonstrated genuine care to all students? • If students were asked to identify which students are treated differently what would they say? • If students were asked to identify which students the teacher likes best and least what would they say?

  13. Questions to Ask/Observations to Make: • How are students of color performing in the teacher’s class? • What does the teacher do or say to encourage these student’s to be successful? • Is there evidence that the teacher considers the cultural backgrounds of the students in his/her teaching style? • Is there evidence that the teacher has introduced culturally considerate curriculum? • What evidence is there regarding whether the teacher is aware of and sensitive to the differences in behaviors or learning styles of students of color?

  14. Issues that may result in inappropriate referrals: • Behaviors that are acceptable and encouraged in the home and the community may be incompatible with expected school behaviors • May cause the student to choose between home and school behaviors • Behaviors that are indicative of problems in one group of students may not be so in another group of students • Some behaviors students exhibit may be wrongly attributed and interpreted by teachers who do not understand the students’ culture or background

  15. “….school psychologists must determine whether problems presumed to reside within the students, may result from institutional biases in the school.” -Sandoval (2007) Professional standards and ethical issues (pg 37) in Handbook of Multicultural School Psychology – An Interdisciplinary Perspective.

  16. “The potential difficulty for educators lies in recognizing whether, when, and how culture is having an effect on students’ ‘functioning’. ”

  17. Recommendations on working with Ethnic Minority Students (Sattler) • Areas to consider: • Student’s and family’s ethnic group • student’s and family’s language • Family’s functioning, structure, and roles • Student’s and family’s health history • Attitudes toward health and illness • Student’s and family’s needs, resources, and vulnerabilities • Student’s and family’s acculturation • Community’s resources

  18. Recommendations on working with Ethnic Minority Students (Sattler) • Areas to consider: • Personal stereotypes • Establishing rapport • Communication • Student’s and family’s perspectives • Consultation skills

  19. Recommendations on working with Ethnic Minority Students (Sattler) • Areas to consider: • Problems associated with poverty • low aspirations that often leads to hostility towards mainstream society and apathy, school failure, or withdrawal • delays in development (including delays in language, reasoning ability, and interpersonal relations).

  20. Children Living in Poverty 2005 Census Bureau statistics

  21. Federal Definition: Emotional Disturbance A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance…

  22. Characteristics… • An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers. • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. • The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance" (CFR §300.7)(a)(9).

  23. Difficulties with the Federal Definition • Definitions are vague - “What ever that means” -Gresham CASP Convention 2007 • “…wide variability among states is most likely due, in part, to confusion, ambiguities, and differences in definitions and interpretations of the meaning of emotional disturbance”. -Best Practices in Assessment for Intervention (2007).

  24. More problems: • Clinical diagnoses • Often play critical part in our determination of eligibility • A clinical diagnosis neither guarantees or eliminates a student from receiving services • Case law • Often times case law defines course of action in the assessment and eligibility determination • Differential diagnoses • As practitioners we are faced with differential diagnoses • State and District policies • Best Practices

  25. More problems: • The interpretations of the definitions are based upon • an individual’s training (where and by whom) • experience • personal perspective • The degree of difficulty we have with applying what we know about the child to the criteria is in direct proportion to • training • experience • comprehensiveness of the assessment

  26. “..children, adolescents and families are subjected to widely varying philosophies, assessment procedures and services based upon questionable criteria used to determine whether a student ‘qualifies’ for services under the Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) designation”. -Olympia et. al. 2004

  27. Add to That… • Lack of training in multi-cultural considerations • Lack of awareness of multi-cultural considerations • This happens with the teacher and the school psychologist This leads to… RECIEPE FOR INAPPROPRIATE ELIGIBILITY REFERRAL AND/OR DETERMINATION

  28. “Children with emotional and/or behavioral disorders are a diverse group whose difficulties exist along a continua of intensity, duration, and frequency of occurrence…The impact of the behavior on the student’s education progress must be the guiding principle for identification.”“Environmental factors: The people and systems that impact the student and the relationship between the instruction, social and community environment and the specific difficulties demonstrated by the student.”

  29. …Developmental and cultural functioning: The student’s current developmental status and the extent to which the student’s behavior is different from the behavior expected for children of the same age, culture, and ethnic background;” -NASP Position Paper


  31. Posey, Easler and Nackos’ Operational Definitions of the Conditions of Federal Code (2009) An extended period of time means: • One month • 6 to 8 weeks • 6 months • 2 to 9 months • Undefined • All of the above (DISCUSSION)

  32. Answer: F) All of the above • One month • The Devereux Scales of Mental Disorders (DSMD) • Behavioral Assessment Scales for Children and Adolescents 2 (BASC 2) require that the rater has been involved with the student for at least one month. • Six to Eight weeks The BASC 2 allows a rater who has not had daily contact with the student have worked with that student for at least this period of time

  33. Answer: F) all of the above • Six months (generally excepted practice) • Believed to be based upon time conditions found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) • Supported by the new language found in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which states the “impairment” has to last six months or longer • 2 – 9 months • OSEP statement “Assuming regular interventions are unsuccessfully implemented over that time”. • Epstein says at least 2 months for the SAED

  34. Answer: F) all of the above • Federal and State codes read, “…for an extended period of time.” Any interpretation is speculation • All of the above • Six moths is believed to be the yardstick that most practitioners use • Rule of thumb – anywhere between 3 – 6 months minimum • 2 marking periods • Need to look at triggering event to determine whether or not “extended period of time”

  35. What constitutes ‘long’? • “Various periods (of time) have been proposed as the minimum duration for which an emotional andbehavioral problem should be evident in order for it to qualify as an Emotional Disturbance • Probably this duration varies for different characteristics”-Epstein & Cullinan (1998) SAED manual pg. 3 • Bottom line – not set in stone! (subjective)

  36. To a ‘Marked Degree’ is defined as? • P.I.T.A. behaviors • On the student’s age/cognitive developmental continuum • Outside the student’s age/cognitivedevelopmental continuum • Whatever the Principal says • Undefined

  37. Answers: C and E • Real Answer is ENot defined in Federal Ed. Code but is generally considered to be behavior not logically connected to the triggering event.

  38. Answers: C and E • P.I.T.A. behaviors – • Pain in The A** behaviors • closely related to D - Whatever the Principal says) • Bothersome, annoying, “at-risk”, culturally related, gang involvement, learned behaviors, etc. • Pimple vs. Boil • On the developmental continuum • (closely related to A) - Need to know characteristics on the developmental continuum • Need to examine triggering event

  39. Answers: C and E • Outside the developmental continuum • Need to look at the triggering event to determine if outside the developmental/cognitive continuum • E.D. students typically manifest behaviors similar to those of students several years younger and/or to a degree not expected • Be careful with students from other cultures, students residing in foster/group homes, or those with psychopathology • Whatever the Principal says • Pressure from the principal (a.k.a. Otherwise know as the “Coroner Attitude” Often P.I.T.A.)

  40. Quotes to Consider… • “……The student’s current developmental status and the extent to which the student’s behavior is different from the behavior expected for children of the same age, culture, and ethnic background.” -NASP Position statement on students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders • “The intent of the modifier ‘marked degree’ is to emphasize that the child must show emotional and behavioral problems that are more extreme than ordinary in order to be considered for the ED special education category” - Epstein & Cullinan (1998) SAED manual pg. 3

  41. ‘Adversely Impacted’ means? • Poor grades • Poor social interactions • Poor behaviors in only structured settings • Failure to turn in homework • Poor performance on a statewide test • Lack of progress in meeting grade level standards • What ever the parent’s attorney says • All of the above

  42. ‘Adversely Impacted’ • is not defined in Federal or State Code • Literature, Due Process decisions, and court cases say we need to look at the following 4 categories when determining: • Educational performance • Social interactions • Interpersonal relationships • Interpersonal adjustments

  43. Educational performance includes: • Test scores • Task completion • Time on task • Standardized and state wide test scores • Attendance • Classroom performance

  44. Social interactions include: • Working with others in classrooms assignments • Working with others in playground or P.E. activities • Interactions with others in school • Interactions with others outside of school • Community • Church • May include sub-cultural activities with others

  45. Interpersonal relationships include: • Closely related to Social interactions • Looks at the quality and depth of those social interactions

  46. Interpersonal adjustment includes: • Coping with events • Social skills to address stressful events • Self-esteem • Asserting self • Confidence -Letter to Lillie/Felton 23IDLER 714/23 LRP 3420 April 6, 1995

  47. ‘Adversely Affects’ “The term ‘adversely affects’ is used in the Part B regulations at 34 CFR 300.7 in the phrase ‘adversely affects a child’s educational performance’.…..a child’s educational performance must be determined on an individual basis, and should include non-academic and academic skills. Since the measurement of ‘educational performance’ is different for each child, the Department has not developed a single definition for this term. Similarly, the term ‘adversely affects’ must be determined on an individual basis”.-Office of Special Education Programs: Thomas Hehir, Director

  48. Court Decision on ‘Adversely Impacts’ “As to the qualifying condition for being seriously emotionally disturbed; while Petitioner’s academic performance is below her potential, she is able to learn; she has satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; she exhibits inappropriate behavior in falling asleep in school but this is not inappropriate ‘to a marked degree’; … The mistrust and antipathy she feels towards her family is not necessarily inappropriate in that often adolescents feel alienated from their families. Petitioner exhibits a mood of unhappiness or depression at home but not at school; thus such mood is not pervasive. She has developed physical symptoms associated with personal or school problems.

  49. Court Decision (continued) However, because there was no real plan described to cope with the physical symptoms, it cannot be determined that such symptoms were present to a marked degree. Petitioner’s case presentation was based in large part on her low academic performance. There is no question that Petitioner’s emotional problems are adversely affecting her educational performance; adverse impact, however, is not sufficient to establish a need for special education.” - Berkley USD Hearing Decision

  50. ‘Adversely Impacts’ • INCLUDES MORE THAN ACADEMICS! • Includes all areas the student should be learning and growing in during the school day (which encompasses door to door) • Districts define “adversely impacts” differently